Hey everybody, welcome to the latest blog update. Sorry I’m late, but this week has been even worse than expected, as I lost a beloved pet yesterday. I’ll talk more about that next week, when I hope (HOPE) to get back on schedule.
Quick update on the tooth: looks like we may not salvage it. The dentist who performed the previous root canal completely missed a root, so that thing has been sitting in my jaw like a time bomb since the latter half of 2006. The Big League Chew Incident, as it is now known, may have been incidental, a minor thing to push the tooth into the red. We’re waiting on the results of a CT scan to determine final prognosis, but the endodontist did not sound optimistic. On the positive side, I did learn that there can be some professional beef between endodontists and dentists. Better believe that’s going into the novel.
Have I mentioned that my wife, Mary, is a writer? If not, I should have. She’s been in hibernation for a little while, but decided to “come out of retirement” for a worthy cause. You see, the fan community to which she belongs decided to honor a fallen member by putting together a fanfic compilation and donating the proceeds to cancer research. What better reason to start writing again? She spent a few months hammering out a novella and handed it over to me last week for editing.
The job ended up being over 100 pages of editing in 4 days, some real record-breaking stuff (Friday night I basically collapsed into bed before I could cross the finish line), but the compilation editors seemed to really like the story and I learned quite a lot. Definitely a worthwhile venture. It’ll be some time before it’s available outside of the collection, but once it is, I’ll link it so you guys can check it out.
This leaves me with little to report on my own novel. The good news is that I’m up and rolling again this week, though I’m having trouble “getting in my reps” with all the other stuff on my plate. Still, hope to have something more to report next week.
Of course, even with these prolonged absences I can still focus on the novel through this blog, and it’s time to do so once again. So far we’ve discussed the protagonist Dean, his sometime-friend, sometime-lover Lindsay, and Dean’s sponsor, LeRoy. What’s missing? Well, the second-most-important character of the novel: Goose.
So-named for his slick talk (“like goose shit through a tin horn”), he began life in the first draft as a stuffy sponsor named Stephen. Stephen was a point-of-view character who dragged Dean back from the precipice a few times but always came across as uptight and sensible, a real shame as I always intended him to have something more going on under the hood.
Thankfully, shifting the book away from Dean’s first meeting and toward his actual recruiting provided a means to transform Stephen from the stuffy sponsor with years of experience into the broken man who initially walked through the door. In this version he joins the group at the same time as Dean, in a sort of partnership, which establishes a whole different dynamic between the two.
A con-man by nature, Goose’s story begins with his arrest for prostitution on the exact same night that Dean got busted for solicitation. That’s right, Goose is/was a male prostitute.The symmetry makes sense in the context of their respective sexual issues. After Goose’s last arrest, his lawyer, Jim, told him about a special deal that he and a client had struck with a judge: the client got leniency on a solicitation charge by offering to attend sex addiction counseling. Always one to seize on an angle, Goose decided he would play the card during his next arrest.
As he’s waiting for his bond hearing, a local dentist walks in. Well, he doesn’t exactly announce the fact, but Goose recognizes him from his TV ads and figures this gives him a leg up, especially as he’s had a sore tooth for a few weeks. He teases the relatively naive Dean with an offer to help him avoid a permanent spot on his record: his knowledge for free dental work. Desperate and afraid, Dean accepts, and thus enters into a very odd but compelling relationship.
Their partnership is marked by the polar opposite nature of their personalities; where Dean is an uptight elitist, Goose is a little too easy-going and accepting. They’re good for one another, but also generate a lot of friction.
This brings me to the topic of Goose and religion. As you may have read between the lines, Goose is gay and grew up in a very religious, very redneck household. He tells the story of his sexual awakening in the novel and it’s pivotal to the story, so I’m not going to spoil it here, but suffice it to say that he felt “dirty” at a very young age, which made it hard for him to identify with the church. As he grew up the situation only intensified, to the point that his brain formed snap associations between the church and beatings. This ultimately resulted in him feeling a fight-or-flight reaction when any topic of religion came up.
Most of the time he handles it by being bombed out of his mind on drugs, but every now and then the panic surfaces, as it does during their first meeting when everyone stands up and holds hands to pray.
Remember what I said last week about recovery and spirituality being so intertwined? Well, imagine the difficulties that will present for Goose long-term and you get an idea of his central struggle in this novel.
Will he develop his own sense of spirituality outside of the church’s dictates? That’s a question that spans the novels, and while I have a good feeling about it, I can’t say for certain. We’ll all find out together.
Next time we’ll hopefully talk about the people who draw Dean and Stephen into this mess: their attorney, Jim, and his friend Peggy.
Question of the Week
Last week I asked about your personal hero, and really only heard from Aniko, who said that she didn’t have one (I think that’s a valid response). So…not too much to discuss on that front. Moving on to this week’s question:
What do you do to push past the fear of failure?
I get asked this one every now and then by aspiring writer friends: how do I sit down and just keep writing day after day, week after week? I always answer that it’s as complex and as simple as just sitting down and doing it every day, but I think it’s also about confronting and defeating your fear of failure.
Do I mean you’ll never fail again? Oh hell no. I fail on a daily basis, but that’s the thing: I allow myself to do so. Call it “sucking with a purpose” (and your dirty mind can take that where it wants, I know mine did already). I mean, I used to be frozen with fear when I faced the empty page. What if I wrote crap? What if I didn’t have my talent anymore? It could all prove what a faker I was, and that I had no business doing this stuff.
Feels silly now. The response is, so what? It’s not like an axe is going to drop from somewhere and behead me if I misuse “they’re” or my prose is hackneyed. I know this now, and so failure remains just another factor to writing, not the unstoppable wall.
But therein lies the catch, of course: I “know” this. I had to learn it – and I’m not sure how you teach it to someone. My knowledge came from continually pushing my boundaries, but someone else may learn it from constant iteration on an idea that seems terrible at first.
So…yeah. That’s my answer: I face the fear head-on, because I learn new things by doing, not by talking through them.
How about you? What do you do? Any mantras you repeat to yourself? Positive self-talk?
Photo of the Week
Another week, another winter storm, another weekend without photography. I’m aching for it now, but warmer weather is on its way, so I have a prayer of getting out there this weekend.
Seeing as we still have snow on the ground and may still have some right up until the warming trend, I thought I’d share this shot of a snowy field in a spot not too far from Purcellville, Virginia. Can’t recall the name of this “town” (really more of a street), but I found the spot gorgeous. Had to jump out of the car on the side of the road to get this. You’d be surprised how often that works.